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Physician and Medical Assistant

Earnings Potential

  • Physician Assistants typically earn between $44,709 and $109,791 per year ( 
  • Physician Assistants earn on average $75,000 per year (CNN
  • Medical Assistants earn between $16,560 and $41,298 per year (

Facts at a glance

  • CNN ranks Physician Assistant as # 5 on its list of the 50 Best Jobs in America
  • CNN projects a 50% job growth over the next 10 years . 
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects Physician Assistant jobs to grow by at least 27% through 2014.
  • The Society of Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants (SEMPA) represents over 6000 Emergency Medicine and Urgent Care PAs nationwide and is dedicated to enhancing the emergency medicine PAs (EMPA) ability to provide the best quality patient care.
  • Employment for Medical Assistants is also expected to grow by 27% or more through 2014 (USDL).

Summary of what this career entails

Physician assistants (PA) usually work under the supervision of medical doctors or surgeons.  Physician assistants should not be confused with medical assistants, who perform routine clinical and clerical tasks.  PAs work with physicians to take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and x rays, and make diagnoses.  They also treat minor injuries, by suturing, splinting, and casting.  PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy.  In 48 States and the District of Columbia, physician assistants may prescribe medications.  Other duties include ordering medical supplies, equipment and supervising technicians and assistants (BLS).

Medical assistants perform administrative and clinical duties and help keep the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners running smoothly.  They should not be confused with physician assistants, who examine, diagnose, and treat patients under the direct supervision of a physician.  Additional duties include answering telephones, greeting patients, updating and filing patients’ medical records, filling out insurance forms, handling correspondence, scheduling appointments, arranging for hospital admission and laboratory services, and handling billing and bookkeeping (BLS).

Examples and or details of work

An blog titled "Military's physician assistants seek to help treat civilians" published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that physician assistants may become a more familiar sight in Canadian hospitals, as they seek a greater role in the public health system.  The Canadian military relies on 127 physician assistants to treat Canadian soldiers on relief operations and peacekeeping missions all over the world (

On October 18, 2006 students at Haywood Community College in Clyde, NC celebrated the National Medical Assistant Recognition Week, which is held in the third full week of October.  Speaker, Barbara Stockton, CMA is an experienced clinical medical assistant and a graduate of the HCC Medical Assisting Program, Class of 2000.  She is president-elect of the Haywood County Society of Medical Assistants. At the event, Stockton discussed the role of medical assistants in the physicians’ offices and answered student questions about what to expect (

Degrees that lead to this career

Physician Assistant: All States require that PAs complete an accredited, formal education program and pass a National exam to obtain a license.  PA programs usually last at least 2 years and are full time.  Most programs are in schools of allied health, academic health centers, medical schools, or 4-year colleges; a few are in community colleges, the military, or hospitals.  Many accredited PA programs have clinical teaching affiliations with medical schools (BLS).

Medical Assistant: The best opportunities go to candidates who are graduates of formal programs in medical assisting from vocational-technical high schools, postsecondary vocational schools, and community and junior colleges.  Courses in anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology, as well as typing, transcription, recordkeeping, accounting, and insurance processing are useful (BLS).


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  “Military's physician assistants seek to help treat civilians”.
2 May 2005.  4 November 2006.


CNN  “Best Jobs in America”.  2006.  4 November, 2006.  


Haywood Community College.  “HCC Students Celebrate Medical Assistant Recognition Week”.  18 Oct. 2006.  4 November 2006.

<>. Path: Search, Barbara Stockton. 2000-2006.  4 November 2006.

<>. Path: Enter title; Medical Assistant; National Base Salary. 2000-2006.  4 November 2006.

<>. Path: Enter title; Physician Assistant; National Base Salary.

U.S. Department of Labor.  Bureau of Labor Statistics.  “Medical Assistants”. 4 Aug. 2006. 

4 November 2006.


U.S. Department of Labor.  Bureau of Labor Statistics.  “Physician Assistants”. 4 Aug. 2006. 

4 November 2006.